The future of education and youth in the EU

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To ensure members of the European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee had a clear understanding of the challenges and prospects in relation to education and youth policies in the EU, researchers developed a set of future scenarios and assessed the scope of changes they might bring.

Among the researchers' findings were that personalised learning policies could be helpful across all scenarios if funded sufficiently and targeted appropriately. Supporting and reinforcing the teaching profession is also key.

Background

The role of education is vital for young people, helping them to acquire the knowledge and capabilities to develop both personally and professionally, and to gain access to the labour market. Education is also a key factor in helping people to grow as citizens and prepare them to fully participate in society.

There are currently a number of challenges facing Europe in relation to education and youth. Digitalisation has completely revamped information systems and, as a consequence, the way users navigate them. Ongoing changes in the labour market are also creating the need for more knowledge-based skills in the workplace, while issues such as social inclusion — particularly for vulnerable populations — remain a concern.

Goals

In preparation for the 2019-2024 term, the European Parliament commissioned RAND Europe to help ensure all members of the Culture and Education (CULT) Committee had a clear overview and understanding of the challenges and prospects in relation to education and youth policies in the EU.

The project’s objectives included providing a set of scenarios outlining important developments for the education and youth sectors, and assessing the scope and importance of possible changes they might bring. The study also offered a set of recommendations for EU policymakers on policy options that could help the EU education and youth sectors prepare for the scenarios identified.

Methodology

The research team’s approach to the study included a literature review, scenario development, and an assessment involving education and youth experts and stakeholders at EU level.

Findings

The study identified key issues that the EU is likely to face in the next 10-15 years which EU education and youth policies could address, including:

  • Social inclusion
  • Youth unemployment
  • Skills mismatch
  • Migration
  • New forms of communications
  • Autonomy of higher education institutions
  • Threats to academic freedom

The study also identified five policy options to be considered by policymakers as priority areas for development:

  1. Student-centred learning and flexible pathways
  2. Inclusive digital learning
  3. Targeted investment in early years
  4. Developing socioemotional development and soft skills
  5. Strengthening the teaching profession

Four scenarios for the future of Europe were identified:

  1. Fragmented Europe
  2. Aligned Europe
  3. Cold-feet Europe
  4. Ostrich Europe

Having conducted a ‘stress-test’ on the policy options in these scenarios, it was found that:

  • Personalised learning policies could be successfully implemented across all scenarios, however they may only achieve some of their objectives or be targeted at certain population segments depending on the level of funding available, and on the prevailing socio-economic environment.
  • Inclusive digital learning could be widely adopted and provide scope for educational inclusion, and is likely to be most successful where there has also been investment in digital infrastructure.
  • Short term solutions that focus on reacting to the needs of the labour market, rather than developing more resilient skills, are less likely to involve targeted investment in early years or socio-emotional development.
  • Reinforcing the teaching profession is a key enabler for all the other policy options that may require changes to working patterns for teachers, as well as changes to how and what they teach.